Scope and Contents
The Woman’s Club of Germantown records document the efforts of clubwomen to engage in community and civic life from 1917 to 1982. The collection is not complete; however, researchers will find a fair sampling of documentation evidencing Club administration and work for most years of its existence. This collection would be of use to people interested in the formation, purpose and activities of women’s clubs in the early- to mid-twentieth century, local history, and to a lesser extent, middle class community development and the voluntary efforts of women on the home front during both world wars. In addition, there is scant information pertaining to the use and preservation of a colonial-era historic house in the twentieth century. The collection is divided into six series: “Meeting Minutes,” “Committee records,” Financial records,” “General administrative records,” “Scrapbooks and photograph albums,” and “Woman’s Club of Germantown Juniors records.”
Taken together, the series, “Meeting minutes,” “Committee records,” “Financial records” and “General administrative records,” convey the life of the Club. There are minutes from Annual, Board, Executive Board, Stated and other meetings from 1917 to 1982. Board and Stated meeting minutes offer the most comprehensive coverage of Club activity in the collection, though neither set is complete. Committees represented in the second series include the Admissions, Finance, Program, Ways and Means, and Welfare Committees from 1935 to 1979. Researchers will find meeting minutes, correspondence, ephemera, financial and other records relating to committee work. Unfortunately, these records only offer sporadic coverage, with membership applications and financial materials, within the Admissions and Welfare committee records respectively, making up the largest samples of documentation in the series.
The next series, “Financial records,” dates from 1921 to 1981 and is arranged into two subseries: “General financial records” and “Debenture Bond Sales.” Under “General financial records,” there are bank statements, cancelled checks, ledgers and account books, monthly financial statements, receipts or bill stubs for clubhouse utilities and various other services, and tax records. In addition, there are small numbers of papers pertaining to bequests, budgets, the Heyl and Mabel Grebe memorial funds, the Johnson House fund and treasurer’s reports. Within the “Debenture Bonds” subseries, researchers will find bond books for twenty-five, fifty and hundred dollar bonds; correspondence; legal records; and other materials related to the buying and selling of bonds. Debenture Bonds were sold by the WCG from 1922 to 1938 to raise money to help pay off their mortgage and to finance the construction of an assembly building.
Following the financial records is the series “General administrative records,” which houses wide ranging documentation of Club activity from 1918 to 1979. In particular, there is an incomplete run of annual reports or yearbooks dating from 1918 to 1969, assorted planning records associated with the annual Antique Show fundraiser from 1941 to 1966; general correspondence; datebooks or engagement books; club produced ephemera; events records; and newspaper clippings. Newspaper clippings typically pertain to club events or its use of the Johnson House as a clubhouse. In addition, there are smaller samples of material related to the construction of the assembly building; club history; the Club’s constitution and by-laws; the Johnson house, including information on its historic preservation, inclusion in the Historic American Buildings Survey in 1934, and general house history; membership; photographs; and other topics.
The “Scrapbooks and photograph albums” series consists of twenty-one scrapbooks and two photograph albums. The scrapbooks date from around 1919 to 1971, covering almost every year in between. They contain assorted club-produced ephemera and printed materials, photographs and newspaper clippings documenting many events and activities of the Club and the surrounding community. The two photograph albums are undated and contain portraits of clubwomen, probably from before 1950.
The final series is named for and houses documentation of the efforts the Woman’s Club’s subsidiary group, the “Woman’s Club of Germantown Juniors.” Organized in 1920, this group was comprised of the young women of Germantown who seem to have functioned as a distinct entity, though they were aligned with the senior Woman’s Club and shared its clubhouse. The series dates from 1929 to 1964. There are annual reports, by-laws, financial records, meeting minutes and scrapbooks. With the exception of scrapbooks, only very patchy documentation of the Juniors’ work can be found here. Despite an obvious separation in the administration of the senior and junior divisions of the Woman’s Club of Germantown, records were not necessarily always maintained separately. Researchers interested in the junior division should also consult the Woman’s Club of Germantown meeting minutes series for additional information.
Limitations on Accessing the Collection
This collection is open for research.
Copyright and Rights Information
The Woman's Club of Germantown records are the physical property of the Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns.
Biographical / Historical
Like many other women's clubs in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Woman's Club of Germantown organized in 1917 to participate in the social, civic, educational and philanthropic life of Germantown, Pennsylvania, and the surrounding area. According to “The First Ten Years: A History of the Woman’s Club of Germantown,” Elizabeth Wilson White initiated the organization of the club via a luncheon to which she invited Mrs. William E. Buehler, Mrs. Thomas H. Carmichael, Mrs. Francis R. Strawbridge, Mrs. Butler Reeves, Mrs. Joseph McFarland, Mrs. Walter G. Sibley, Mrs. Bayard Hodge, Mrs. Walter Penn Shipley, and Mrs. H. C. Bowden. Later these same women held a large luncheon meeting at the Young Women’s Christian Association where the plans were developed more fully. It was here that, “Mrs. H.S. Prentice Nichols presided, lending her force and clever skill in molding the enthusiasm of the hour into the firm foundation of permanent organization.” (The First Ten Years, p. 10)
This commitment to permanent organization resulted in a constitution, the purchase of the Johnson House for a clubhouse, a rapidly increasing number of members, and joining the State Federation of Pennsylvania Women. The Club also organized four standing committees: House, Program, Finance and Membership. The Johnson House was an eighteenth century historic house located in Germantown and famous for scars inflicted during the Battle of Germantown in 1777 and its later nineteenth century use as a stop on the Underground Railroad.
Almost simultaneously with the creation of the Woman’s Club of Germantown, came the First World War and the Clubwomen donated their time and resources towards the war effort. Indeed, “intensive war work was carried on by club members. . . the clubhouse served as the Germantown headquarters of the National League for Woman’s Service, [and] during the summer and fall of 1918, soldiers and sailors from government hospitals in Philadelphia were entertained each Tuesday in the garden of the club,” (Woman’s Club of Germantown 50th Anniversary Luncheon program, 1917-1967).
The end of the war brought peace and a charter granted to the Woman’s Club of Germantown on April 29, 1919. The committees of the club grew, adding a Building Committee when the discussion of an Assembly Building was raised, as well as Patriotic Committee through which Americanization work was accomplished. A Junior Section of the Woman’s Club of Germantown was established on January 7, 1920 with ten junior clubwomen.
In 1922, the Club had raised enough money to begin building an Assembly building and various events were established and made annual such as the Antiques Show, Spring Fete and Flower Show. The Club also established the Germantown Community Center which later became known as the Germantown Settlement. The Club also participated in the Sesquicentennial Celebration, hosting tourists from near and far at the Johnson House, which had been labeled a point of "historic interest."
The Club’s involvement in community and philanthropy grew and in 1935, the Club’s social service committee “financed a ‘Tot Lot’ in a congested part of Philadelphia to provide recreation for underprivileged children… [which] brought recognition from the State Federation of Pennsylvania Women in the form of a Blue Ribbon Award for social service work,” (Silver Chimes). The Junior Clubwomen were also awarded for their service.
The Club’s committees appear to have been the backbone of the Club, growing from an original four committees in 1917 to twenty four in 1927 to twenty-five in 1974. The 1974 committees included: admissions, nominating, arts and crafts, book review and library, by-laws, cancer dressings, current events, decorating and gardening, desserts, finance, friendship, Heyl Memorial, historian, house and office, Marathon Bridge, program, Spring Luncheon, hostesses, telephone, trips, ways and means, welfare and yearbook.
In 1927, the author of “The First Ten Years” states, “The Woman’s Club of Germantown is ten years old—it has seen a World War, and met the conditions of reconstruction following in its wake, it has been stirred to the past through its city’s Sesquicentennial, and adjusted its standards to the modern march of manners and morals. The next ten years may hold less or more of stirring events and subtle change, but the foundations of sympathy, integrity and practical idealism have, we trust, been laid,” (p. 34). By 1947, Mrs. Horace H. Burrell felt confident stating “the goals of the founder that ‘an organization of Germantown women could come together in a friendly way, regardless of social distinctions, and create a force that would tell in the social, civic, education and philanthropic life of Germantown’ had been accomplished.”
15 Linear Feet (10 containers, 26 volumes)